White House Signals Farm Bill Veto – Will Congress Bend?

  • Published on April 29th, 2008

tractors_2.jpgWord has it that the farm bill congressional conferees hammered out at the end of last week would most likely be vetoed by President Bush. The ink has not dried on the agreement, and that is why Congress had to pass an extension of the existing farm bill last week. The extension gives lawmakers until May 2, when they must either pass another stopgap measure or resort to the permanent 1949 agriculture law, if a new bill is not completed.

According to Ryan Grimm at Politico.com, when asked what the President would do if the current iteration of the farm bill made its way to the President’s desk White House spokesman Scott Stanzel replied, “as it stands now, it is not something the president would support.” Stanzel wrote in an email:

“The proposal before Congress would dramatically increase spending, in part by masking additional spending in budgetary gimmicks and accounting tricks.”

Farm bills pass – that’s what they do

Despite the threat, there may be enough Congressional support to override the veto. According to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), “If the White House is stupid enough to veto this, they’re going to get overridden.”

The farm bill is a very popular funding mechanism for Congressional spending. Every state’s congressional delegation works extremely hard to get their slice of the agricultural pie – not doing so does not bode well in the eyes of powerful ag interests and the voters of agricultural states. In short, farm bills do not get vetoed. At least very rarely do they get vetoed – there are a few exceptions.

One exception to the rule is when a second term president uses a veto (or threatens to veto) an appropriations bill, such as a farm bill – and criticize Congress for loading it with pork and earmarks – without any serious political repercussions. Interestingly enough, the last time a farm bill was vetoed was nearly 10 years ago, when another late second-term president successfully vetoed a farm bill – a veto which Congress made no attempt to override. But the political climate is quite different from that of ten years ago, and I would suspect that this President does not have the political capital to successfully veto the farm bill.
See also: “Small Wind Remains in Farm Bill” :: Green Options (12/2007)

Photo: mike138

About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.
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  • Rachel M.

    Thanks Tim! That's roughly consistent with my impression…much appreciated. Good idea with Grist, too.

  • Rachel M.

    Tim, do you have an opinion on whether a White House veto of the farm bill would be desirable? Farm policy in the US seems like such a hopeless mess to me that I don’t have a position one way or another, and I’m curious if you have a more thoughtful stance.

  • Rachel, I was hoping no one would ask! Farm policy is not exactly my thing, but what I can tell you is that this farm bill actually does some good things for small farmers, community supported agriculture, farmers markets, and (my personal favorite)small wind power.

    It is also my impression, however, that this bill is a lot more of the same, in terms of price supports, safety nets, etc – all the things that corporate farms get fat on.

    With that said, I'm kind of torn and would have to defer to some more informed policy analysts. There is usually good coverage of farm policy at Grist if you want to know more.

    Hope that helps.